Vegetarian diets and gut microbiota: important shifts in markers of metabolism and cardiovascular disease

Nutr Rev. 2016 Jul;74(7):444-54. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw012. Epub 2016 May 30.


Vegetarian diets have been associated with a lower incidence of several chronic diseases. The benefits of plant-based diets are related mainly to the improvement of metabolic parameters that can indicate risk for such diseases. Some metabolic factors, such as oxidative balance, lipid profile, and glucose homeostasis, can be improved directly by diet, but paradoxically, some characteristics of vegetarian diets may promote a negative scenario that increases the risk of certain chronic diseases. Additionally, many benefits of a vegetarian diet are mediated by the gut microbiota, members of which not only have taxonomic and functional differences but also produce diverse, specific metabolites that vary according to whether the host consumes an omnivorous or a vegetarian diet. This review examines the modulation of human metabolism and gut microbiota by vegetarian and omnivorous dietary patterns and explores how this modulation may affect the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; gut microbiota; intestinal microbiota; plant-based; vegetarian.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Diet*
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Metabolome*
  • Nedocromil
  • Risk Factors


  • Lipids
  • Nedocromil